Fort Wayne, Indiana – Indiana trademark attorneys for Darryl Agler, doing business as The Stratotone Guitar Company of Fort Wayne, Indiana, filed a lawsuit in the Northern District of Indiana alleging that Westheimer Corporation of Northbrook, Illinois infringed the trademark “STRATOTONE” (the “Stratotone mark”), Trademark Registration No. 3,986,754 which has been issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”). Counterfeiting, unfair competition, and false designation of origin arising under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1051 et seq., and the statutes and common law of the State of Indiana have also been alleged.
Agler custom manufactures guitars and sells them across the United States. Each of Agler’s guitars is hand crafted from the wood of a customer’s choosing and features vintage hardware. Agler currently accepts orders for his guitars on his website at www.stratotoneguitar.com. He also displays and sells his guitars, which sell at retail for $1,250 or more, at vintage guitar shows across the nation. Angler asserts that, since at least as early as January of 2007, his marketing and promotions in connection with his guitars have included the Stratotone Mark.
Agler claims a right to exclude others’ use of the “Stratotone” mark in connection with guitars based on, inter alia, ownership of trademark rights to the mark “Stratotone” conferred by U.S. Reg. No. 3,986,754 (“‘754 Registration”). The ‘754 Registration was issued by the USPTO in 2011 as a result of a 2006 application for the Stratotone mark in association with “musical instruments, namely, guitars.”
According to the complaint, at the National Association of Music Merchants (“NAMM”) show in 2010, Westheimer offered and sold cheaper guitars using the Stratatone mark. Agler states that he spoke to Westheimer personnel twice at this show, notifying them that Westheimer’s products were infringing the Stratotone mark. Agler alleges that he was unable to sell any of his guitars at the NAMM show that year.
Agler indicates that, since the 2010 NAMM show, Westheimer has flooded the market with lower quality, cheaper guitars that bear the Stratotone mark. These guitars retail between $199.00 and $399.00. Agler contends that Westheimer’s “Stratotone” guitars have destroyed the market for Agler’s more expensive Stratotone guitars.
On April 25, 2013, Westheimer filed a petition to cancel the ‘754 Registration (the “Cancellation Petition”) with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. The Cancellation Petition is currently pending.
In the complaint, filed by Indiana intellectual property lawyers for Agler, the following counts are alleged:
• Count I: Federal Unfair Competition and False Designation of Origin
• Count II: Federal Trademark Infringement
• Count III: Federal Trademark Counterfeiting
• Count IV: Common Law Unfair Competition and Trademark Infringement
• Count V: Unjust Enrichment
• Count VI: Conversion
• Count VII: Deception
• Count VIII: Indiana Crime Victim’s Relief Act
Agler asks the court for injunctive relief; an accounting of damages; the surrender by Westheimer of items featuring the Stratotone mark; damages, including treble damages; and attorney’s fees.
Practice Tip: Indiana Code §§ 35-43-4-3 and 35-43-5-3(a)(6) are criminal statutes, claimed in the complaint in conjunction with an attempt to parlay the accusation into an award for damages, costs and attorneys’ fees. The Indiana Court of Appeals has discussed “theft” and “conversion” as they pertain to takings of intellectual property in several recent cases (see, for example, here and here) and has made it clear that criminal statutes often apply differently to an unlawful taking of intellectual property.
The suit was filed by Louis T. Perry and Amie Peele Carter of Faegre Baker Daniels LLP. The case was assigned to District Judge Jon E. DeGuilio and Magistrate Judge Roger B. Cosbey in the Northern District of Indiana and assigned Case No. 2013-11291:14-cv-00099-JD-RBC.